Seizing the opportunity

Seizing the opportunity

It can be challenging to talk about how the financial needs of women differ from those of men. Some people would prefer to look beyond gender, saying that both groups have similar pain points and we should instead focus on shared solutions. However, new research flies in the face of this.

It can be challenging to talk about how the financial needs of women differ from those of men. Some people would prefer to look beyond gender, saying that both groups have similar pain points and we should instead focus on shared solutions. However, new research flies in the face of this.

According to the ING Direct Women & Finance report there is a “misalignment” between women’s needs and the products and services that financial companies are dishing up. Combine this with an industry not serving woman in the manner that they want to be, and you can see that there is a real problem.

With over 90 per cent of women making the majority of financial decisions in households and 84 per cent confident in taking on all financial decisions, you can see that there is a large group of the population that are not having their financial needs adequately met.

I was lucky enough to be in the room when ING Direct executive director for distribution Lisa Claes launched this illuminating research.

Speaking to a room of prominent women (and men) from the financial industry, Ms Claes described in colourful language the different ways that women communicate and laid down a pretty good argument for the financial services industry making some big changes in the way they deal with women customers.

“There is evidence in the financial services industry of an increasing focus on women and supporting their financial needs, but I don’t believe that industry has got it right yet,” Ms Claes said.

“We don’t need to divide the genders with a compartmentalised approach; instead there must be an integrated approach.”

Ms Claes told the room that for women, referrals play a significant role in their financial decision-making.

"Women are rabid referral machines and are in fact 19 times more likely to make or act on a referral from a family member or a friend in all matters – including finances,” she said.

So this may serve as a wake-up call to the finance industry from a customer service perspective, but from a revenue perspective it is also important.

Women stand to inherit $2.4 trillion in assets over the next 30 years, so if you’re only looking at your bottom line, it's very wise to come up with strategies to attract and retain the business of this important segment.

One way to better service the needs of women is to encourage more women to take up financial planning as a career choice.

I have been speaking to a number of female financial planners, and all agree that becoming an adviser (and particularly an independent financial adviser) is a fantastic opportunity and a great way to combine family with a satisfying career.

At the moment, only 31 per cent of women receive financial advice and ING’s Ms Claes agrees that having more female advisers may help to improve this.

“Your organisation needs to reflect your customer, so if more women are seeking financial advice then yes, we need to have more women,” Ms Claes said.

One industry initiative that is making a difference is BT’s Stella Network which was created in 2013 to support women advisers and to encourage more to take on the challenge of a financial planning career.

In a recent ifa  profile of advisers elinda Houghton from Houghton Strategic Solutions. she spoke openly about her leap into unfamiliar territories and the success – and failures – that followed. She is a great example of a female adviser taking on the challenge of “everyday people” and making a difference.

“With the knowledge, structuring, strategies and goal setting we can help with, they can start to move forward and become financially successful, instead of just holding ground,” she says.

So we can see that we are at a moment in time when women will be increasingly taking on more of the financial decision-making. The time is ripe for the finance industry to take hold of this golden opportunity and see that treating segments differently can be a positive thing.

 


  Alice Uribe, ifa editor

Seizing the opportunity
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